Swimming with Dolphins: A Life Long Dream
The Day I Swam with Dolphins
In 2007, I fulfilled a life long ambition which was to swim with dolphins.
I have always been fascinated by dolphins and had always wanted to encounter them in their natural habitat. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think it would actually happen so I was overjoyed when the opportunity presented itself to me whilst on holiday in the Dominican Republic with my girlfriend Kirsty.
To say that the experience was amazing is an understatement and something that I will never forget as long as I live. I fully appreciate that not everyone will be able to do this in their lifetime but I strongly reccommend that you try it out if you ever get the chance.
The remainder of this Lens is going to provide a bit more detail about the whole experience and some of the other things which I did on this trip. I am a very keen snorkeler and also had an interesting encounter with sharks (another dream of mine which came true), a swim around a live reef and got up close and personal with s Sealion
All photos on this Lens were taken by myself or my girlfriend
A Little bit about Bottlenose Dolphins
Bottlenose Dolphins have got to be one of the most iconic creatures on the planet. Their famed intelligence and playful nature make them one of the most adored species around the world; you would not have to go far to find someone who when asked, "What is your favourite animal?" they would say "The Bottlenose Dolphin of course..."
For me, they have always been in my top 3, along with The Great White Shark and The Emperor Penguin (pretty contrasting I know but I find them both fascinating) and as mentioned above, I finally got to meet one face to face. Before I go in to detail about my dolphin encounter, I just want to provide you with some information on the Bottlenose Dolphin as there are many things which people do not realise.
The Bottlenose Dolphin belongs to the oceanic family known as Delphinidae and is but one of over 40 species of dolphin. Living for up to and above 40 years, they can grow to 2.8 meters in length. This was probably the thing which shocked me most about my dolphin encounter as I could not get over the size of them. I considered myself to be fairly knowledgeable about dolphins but was taken completely aback by their physical presence, just awesome!.
The main characteristics which have endeared the dolphin to so many people are actually traits of biological necessity. The playful leaping from the ocean with grace and majesty is to allow the dolphin to breathe; although the dolphin is a strictly aquatic mammal, it is still a mammal nonetheless and cannot breath underwater. The dolphin has the ability to store more oxygen per Kg of body mass than a human and can stay submersed for up to 20 minutes; they will also sleep regularly by drifting along the surface to ensure that the blowhole can take in oxygen. The sounds made by a dolphin are extremely well known and greatly documented within nature programmes. If you could see me at the time of writing this I am making a kind of Ehh-Ehh-Ehh-Ehh / clicking noise in my head as I try to describe it but I am sure are familiar with it (if not, just think about an old modem performing dial up or a fax machine during transmission). These noises are not just to make themselves appear cute to humans but are in fact a form of echolocation used to locate prey.
The size and power of a Bottlenose Dolphin is greatly underestimated as many people will regularly compare them to Great White Sharks or Killer Whales. While they are not as large as the 2 aforementioned creatures they can achieve speeds of up to 20 miles per hour and have been known to defend themselves against sharks with even fatal consequences.
For more information on Dolphins, take a look at one of the excellent publications detailed below
Further Reading on Dolphins - Explore the world of the Dolphin
The more you read about Dolphins, the more you want to know about them. They truly are fascinating creatures and it is believed that we have only scratched the surface in terms of their capabilities and intelligence. The following books will provide you with a greater insight into the world of the Dolphin.
Everything you need to know about the Biology of the Bottlenose Dolphin and how we can conserve their existance
An excellent Dolphin Resource with fantastic photography
Your one stop reference
My Dolphin Encounter
It was summer 2007, when I and my girlfriend, Kirsty went to the Dominican Republic on a well-deserved vacation. We did not intend to take part in this amazing opportunity on our arrival but as soon as we saw that it was possible, we jumped at the chance.
The place where this all took place was Ocean World - Dominican Republic and is a fantastic location for all things aquatic. I will cover a few of the activities in greater detail shortly but you can swim with dolphins, swim with sharks and meet sea lions.
The encounter itself lasted about 30 minutes and began with a group of 6 of us entering in to the area of segregated ocean wearing our life jackets. We all sat at the side of the water and received our brief on topics such as not scratching the dolphins and how to approach them. We all entered the water and arranged ourselves in a formerly line waiting for the dolphins to arrive.
It was not long before the trainer made a simple hand signal which initiated the arrival of the dolphins. I will never forget this moment as it was then when I first got to see the magnificent creatures up close and personal. One of the dolphins swam straight in front of me and I could feel its power from the swash it created as it passed me by, I turned to Kirsty and said "I did not know they were that big".
The first part of the encounter was in a group format. The dolphins passed along the line in various poses such as on its back and one flipper in the air. We then got to touch the dolphin and again I was shocked at the texture of the skin, almost like slippery rubber they were so soft and smooth. In turn we were able to give the dolphins a kiss on the nose and feed them a small fish. I am trying to think of a good comparison for this but I simply cannot; it is not like feeding your dog or stroking a snake but unlike anything I have ever experienced and something that you have just got to try if you are lucky enough to do so...
Once the group precessions had taken place it was time to have someone on one time with the dolphin. In turn we each swam out to the middle of the pool and waited for further instruction. "Place your arms out to the side and hold on tight when you feel the dolphins dorsal fins pass you by" was the call and that is what happened. As the 2 dolphins swam past me I grabbed on to the dorsal fins and was completely blown away by the power and acceleration of the creatures as they dragged me through the water. I cannot stress enough how powerful these animals are and can only compare the acceleration to being on a motorcycle. Breath-taking!!!
The second individual encounter was to again wait in the centre of the pool and wait for the dolphins. This time it was only 1 of them and it was soon about to propel me through the water by pushing its nose against the soles of my feet. (This act is shown on the video below). At first I thought it was just going to be a placid journey but instead, soon felt myself being lifted out of the water and almost flying. Totally Amazing!
The while experience was extremely overwhelming and left me with a buzzing feeling which can instantly return each time I think about it. I will never forget this experience and will almost certainly do it again as I get older. I'm not sure if I have mentioned how big and powerful they are but they really are huge and that is my lasting memory of the experience. To sum the whole thing up in 3 words...Dream Come True! You have got to try it!
Dolphin Swim at Ocean World - Dominican Republic
The following video is from the same location as where I swam with Dolphins. My experience took the exact same format as this one shown below
Your Experience with Dolphins
Just a quick Poll to see what everyone things about dolphins
Have you ever swam with Dolphins?
I also met a Sea Lion that day - The Clowns of the Animal Kingdom
If swimming with Dolphins was not enough for one day, I also jumped at the chance to have an encounter with a Sea Lion.
The Sea Lion is a truly magnificent creature and once again, I found myself amazed at the size of it. I will just point out at this point that I left Ocean World that day wondering what on earth I had been thinking all these years; I had watched, read about and researched these creatures for years but did not once think that they were bigger than me. I know this sounds ridiculous but it is true and you cannot help feeling completely insignificant when up close.
Anyhow, back to the Sea Lion encounter...I did not get to spend any time with the Sea Lion in the water as they apparently get a little boistress when beneath the waves but what I did get to do was stroking, playing games, feeding and even kissing. (See the photo).
It had never been a long life dream to meet a Sea Lion but now I have done it I am thrilled to have done so. Unlike dolphins you can interact with them on a more personal level and it just makes me smile to look at them. The way they walk makes me laugh every time (not in a nasty way) and their ability to perform is outstanding. If you ever get the chance to get close to a Sea Lion (in a controlled environment) then go for it...you will not be disappointed!
Have you swam with them? Would you like to? feel free to leave your dolphiny (yes that is a word) comments